It took 40 years to build up a thriving Warrnambool Co-op business but just seven for its demise, and now more than a decade later a new book traces the rise and fall of the much-loved icon.
Former managing director Bill Quinlan has put pen to paper after he'd been approached by so many of its 10,000 former members keen to know what went so wrong.
"It was a thriving business when I retired in 2000," Mr Quinlan said.
"It had no debt. It was a unique type of business. It was a terrific, multi-million-dollar business."
But seven years later, the business that had symbolised community was gone along with the jobs of the 60 remaining staff.
"It demonstrates how well a business can go and what a disaster can happen in a short space of time," Mr Quinlan said.
Mr Quinlan had started at the business in 1960 and rose through the ranks to the top job, leaving when it was at the top of its game.
"People loved shopping there because it was basically a one-stop shop," Mr Quinlan said.
It had a substantial department store which included anything from clothing, kitchenware, paint and gardening goods as well as two rural stores and a large warehouse.
It also had the herd improvement side of the business and there was even a time The Co-op considered buying out Pontings, Mr Quinlan said.
"After I retired they decided they wanted to change things, change them for the worse because they decided they would do a major development down there," he said.
"Unfortunately they demolished the two rural stores, the fuel forecourt area was a substantial development that we did and we owned the tanks in the ground and we had 12 bowsers.
"It was a really good service that we provided to the members. Because we owned all the infrastructure, we could always do a good deal with the petrol company.
"All that infrastructure there was demolished was worth in excess of $4 million."
Mr Quinlan said the decision to sell off land and leasing it back put a lot of pressure on the business.
"Previously the members owned it all and we weren't paying any rent to anyone."
Mr Quinlan started working as a technician for the herd improvement operation which specialised in artificial insemination.
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"I was the first employee," he said.
The business was so busy that he was working seven days a week travelling across the region, and was the reason he called time on playing football for Koroit.
The doors shut for the last time in December 2007, and Mr Quinlan admits that for a while it was "a bit traumatic" for him to even drive past knowing all the hard work he and others had put into building it up.
"It was like a family at The Co-op," he said.
"It was a sad day when the co-op closed its doors because it was providing a terrific service."
From 2004 and 2007 they made some bad decisions, he said.
Proceeds of the book will go towards accommodation for youth homelessness through Brophy Family and Youth Services.
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